Monday, March 7, 2016

Success, Competition, Perfection, and Trying to be "The Best"

I actually really like the theme that this touches on, though I have to admit I found a few of the panels a bit confusing, ehehehe ^^;

I think the struggle to compete, to be our best, to "be a master" as Pokémon would put it, is a very real thing that is present in our lives whether we feel it or not.  I think a lot of people can really empathize with feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, and shame, perhaps sometimes in relation to other people around us, perhaps sometimes because of opinions that others have, or perhaps sometimes because of no one else but our own selves.

Like it or not, it is nigh impossible to really be "the best" or "perfect" at anything, and when I think about it, it's a bit concerning that the "heroes" and protagonists in our stories often get their happy ending by triumphing and succeeding over everyone else.  Quite often we have the cliché narrative of the good-at-nothing hero who manages to overcome all odds and beat everyone else because of either his determination, persistence, courage, or what have you.  In some extremely rare cases it's actually because he is genuinely an amazing and empathetic good-hearted person -- looking at you, Steven Universe! -- but most of the time it's a story about how the good-for-nothing brat manages to beat the talented genius or evil megapower simply because he tried hard enough.  And isn't that wonderful?  That we can instill these (capitalistic) values of hard work, determination, etcetera and give people hopes of succeeding in the face of all odds because if you believe in yourself, anything can happen?

First of all, I'm the one coming from the perspective of the "talented genius" here.  What exactly am I supposed to take away from these stories?  "don't be an asshole"?  "watch your back?"  I'm STILL figuring out how to be good at something in a way that is respectful and helpful to others and part of me wonders if it's perhaps because I had no good role models or guidelines to follow?  During those few times when I watched some stream videos for League of Legends to see what the gameplay for a certain character was, I witnessed people trash-talking, laughing and deriding enemies and teammates alike, and throwing around "noob" and "suck" more times than I'd care to admit -- is this the kind of behavior we as a community would like to promote for people who are skilled and/or exceptional at something?

Secondly, maybe we should consider that there might be a real concern in believing that "you'll always get there".  I think the main problem I had with the comic linked at the top of this post was its resolution.  To me, there is =almost= an air of "Don't worry if you don't have 1 million followers yet!  Concentrate on the fact that you have 10!"  Now, I don't think that is really what the intent was; I think the point was more to say something like "It's not about the number of followers you have -- it's the fact that someone really appreciates your work."  But that aside, I think it's a real danger to look upon success as the measure of your worth, and I say that as someone who has constantly striven for success in almost every part of their life.

Does success bring you more happiness?  More friends?  More popularity?  What does success bring you, really?  I thought about these things as I considered how unskilled I was at dancing WCS and I asked myself, "If I really got much better at dancing WCS what would I get out of it?"  Judging from my past experience with waltz* where I am already at the expert level*, I would probably feel much less afraid of doing things wrong while dancing, and much more confident in myself.  I would also probably have much less tolerance for dancing with other people who don't know what to do.  I wouldn't have any more friends than I do right now.  Maybe I'd have less.

While it's natural for us to want to show our best sides and to practice refining ourselves until we are "perfect" to show off to others, I think it is nothing more than a =crutch= if we solve our self-confidence problems by attempting to make ourselves better.  Sometimes you need to take a step back and ask yourself what is really important.  If you are feeling depressed about art, dance, music, work, or life because you don't think you are good enough at it, or because there is someone better than you, maybe the answer is not to just improve until you are the best.  That's both unsustainable, and moreover, illogical: what happens if everybody feels the same way?  What, so only ONE person at the very top can be happy?  Are you kidding me?  The answer is not to try to be at "the top" by improving until you are the best, and the answer is not to try and be at "the top" by isolating yourself and disregarding everyone above you.  Instead we need to redefine what "success" means to us as well as "failure".  What is really important in life?

Yes, yes, I'm calling the kettle black here.  Still learning too.

tl;dr: Steven Universe and Undertale teach us the right lessons about life, blah blah blah

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